Quarterback: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
This all hinges on whether backup quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, will be traded this offseason. I’ve said before to hang on to him, unless some team gets stupid. It’s time to look to the future, and although Brady is playing his best football at age 40 (!), quarterbacks at his age tend to nosedive, instead of gradually decline.
Running Backs: Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster, Tyler Gaffney
Newcomer Rex Burkhead, looks like he is the starting running back for the Patriots thus far. This year’s draft class of running backs is super deep, and it would be wise to draft an all around running back. James White deserves the third down role after his 14 catch Super Bowl performance, accompanied with Dion Lewis’ inability to stay on the field.
Fullback: James Develin, Glenn Gronkowski
An underrated aspect of the re-emergence of the power running game the Patriots mixed in last season, was the fantastic play of fullback James Develin, and the Patriots rewarded him with a nice contract. I expect him to continue to have a role in the offense, as the power running game really complemented the Patriots’ versatility in the passing game.
Wide Receivers: Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Devin Lucien, DeAndrew White
Tom Brady must be salivating looking at this receiving corps. It remains to be seen whether Danny Amendola will take a pay cut for the third straight season, but Edelman, Cooks and Hogan as your top three wideouts is pretty darn good. Cooks brings more big play ability, alongside Hogan, who led the league in yards/catch.
Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Michael Williams, Rob Housler
Martellus Bennett had a fine year here, but it was time to move on and find a younger, more cost-effective tight end to backup and accompany Gronk. In comes Dwayne Allen, who had a rough season last year, but talented tight ends flourish in the Patriots system. It will be interesting to watch whether head coach Bill Belichick decides to draft a tight end in this deep draft, and looking to the future, perhaps without Gronk.
Offensive Line: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, La’Adrian Waddle, Tre Jackson, Chris Barker, Ted Karras
The starting five looks set in stone, unless if Belichick wants to add some interior line competition. They are very young inside though, with plenty of potential, especially the guards. A sneaky little thing to watch, Nate Solder is up for a contract after this upcoming season, and although this draft is not deep with offensive linemen, look for the Patriots to draft an experimental tackle, and attempt to coach him up.
Defensive Line: Kony Ealy, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Darius Kilgo, Woodrow Hamilton, Geneo Grissom
I’d love to see the Patriots stick with a 4-3 this season, and add another pass rusher. The two starting defensive tackles, Alan Branch and Malcolm Brown, are extremely tough in the trenches, and make it tough for running lanes to be opened up. Flowers has started to emerge as a pass rusher, and Ealy has the ability as well. Their depth is solid inside, but they could use more edge players.
Linebackers: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates
Here lies the real issue with the Patriots roster. They have zero depth behind the recently re-signed Dont’a Hightower. Not only that, but they do not have a linebacker that fares well in coverage, since most of them are most effective against the run, or rushing the passer. It’d be great if they could add a linebacker that could cover ground effectively, and use Hightower as a pass rusher on passing downs.
Cornerbacks: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Jonathan Jones
It almost seems like a foregone conclusion that Malcolm Butler will not don a Patriots jersey for the 2017 season. If he does though, this seems like the likely depth chart, and it’s a pretty top heavy one. Both Butler and Gilmore are very good starting cornerbacks, but the Patriots need to add depth, especially in the slot, where only Cyrus Jones is really the only slot cornerback.
Safeties: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner
It was a very smart move to retain safety Duron Harmon, since he allows both Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung to play closer to the line of scrimmage, and allow them to make plays. McCourty really flourished down the stretch when the move was made to put him in more playmaking positions, and that’s how to use him.
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
It’s time to give Gostkowski some competition, either by bringing in a free agent or drafting a kicker in the late rounds of the draft. Ryan Allen had a solid season and there were no issues regarding the long snapper, Joe Cardona.